Jordan authorities arrest activists for ‘undermining political regime’


Since September of this year, Jordanian authorities have detained at least 7 activists as the government is seeking to limit protests over its austerity policies. Those who were targeted with harassment and arrest are protest leaders, participants, and other critics, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.

Those detained face charges related to social media posts that show them participating in protests or criticizing the country’s leadership.

Jordan’s Penal Code prohibits insulting the king, queen, crown prince, and other “guardians of the throne,” a prohibition often described with the French phrase lese majeste.

The authorities accuse other activists of “undermining the political regime,” a terrorism offense under the jurisdiction of the State Security Court.

“Jordan faces significant economic and political problems that are adding to citizens’ frustrations, but jailing activists and violating protesters’ rights may only hide popular discontent,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Since mid-November, Jordanians began tweeting the hashtag #stop_arrestjo to call attention to arrests and pressure authorities to release all those detained on charges tied to their peaceful statements and criticisms of authorities.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under article 15 of Jordan’s constitution. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Jordan is a state party, protects the right to freedom of expression, including “freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice” (article 19).

International law allows only narrowly defined restrictions on these rights that conform with the law and are necessary in a democratic society for national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Such restrictions should rarely, if ever, limit public and peaceful criticism of state leaders and institutions.

“Telling Jordanian activists to shut their mouths and go home or risk arrest will not ameliorate legitimate concerns about the economic situation or perceived government corruption,” Page said. (Source: HRW)